Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

A few light breezes in the doldrums


Various Artists

I'm Your Fan (the songs of Leonard Cohen by . . .)


+ + +

Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows, as interpreted by Concrete Blonde was the seductive centerpiece for the film Pump Up the Volume, and appropriately so. Its eloquent assessment of commonplace untruths provided the perfect backdrop for Christian Slater's portrayal of an underground disc jockey creating unauthorized awareness of his high school community.

I'm Your Fan, a cover song compilation meant to represent the songs of poet/author/songwriter Cohen, contains a gathering of diverse artists including R.E.M., the Pixies, and John Cale. But while I'm Your Fan contains similar ideologies, few tracks are as seductive or involving as Everybody Knows.

Some groups seem at home with Cohen's material.

R.E.M. hints at the holocaust in the album-opening First We Take Manhattan, while David McComb and Adam Peters score one of the compilation's only danceable singalongs, Cohen's mirthful Don't Go Home. . . . Lloyd Cole is comfortable with Chelsea Hotel, and Bill Pritchard does well with I'm Your Man, a fine example of Cohen's gift for essential songwriting-adherence to lyrical form and strong, dark melodies.

It should be no surprise that the majority of acts included on I'm Your Fan aren't exactly household names; Ugandan vocalist Geoffrey Oryema delivers Suzanne, New Zealand's Dead Famous People cover True Love Leaves No Traces, explaining themselves on the LP's press kit by saying, "We covered this song because it was the only one that didn't make us want to slit our wrists."

Well put. While some of Cohen's songs are eloquent in their simplicity, other numbers meander in aimless, monotonous drones.

There is a pervasive sense that Cohen's material is educational, that his high-brow lyrical style is an acquired, sophisticated taste. There is also an infectious nihilism, brought on by the almost spoken-word melody-lines and contradictory suggestions; from Chelsea Hotel, "I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/that's all, I don't think of you that often."

But maybe the most unpalatable truth on I'm Your Fan is that many of Cohen's songs, regardless of who covers them, are unattractive, painfully honest, perhaps even seedy.

As Lloyd Cole sings in his version of Chelsea Hotel, "We are ugly, but we have the music." Given that, a question remains _ whether the audience has the fortitude to keep listening.